Hundreds tune into UVA safety panel amid increased gun violence

The University of Virginia is sharing new details about its efforts to keep students safe amid increasing gun violence in the surrounding community.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 5:51 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WWBT) - The University of Virginia is sharing new details about its efforts to keep students safe amid increasing gun violence in the surrounding community.

Since the November shooting that killed three UVA football players, there have been several instances of shots fired near UVA Grounds, sparking concern from students and families.

More than 800 students, parents and community members tuned into a virtual town hall Tuesday, hoping for answers.

UVA President Jim Ryan took the time to read several questions from parents aloud. Many asked about hiring extra police, monitoring social media threats and any additional precautions for graduation day.

This conversation comes a little more than a week after a 26-year-old contractor with UVA was shot and killed on the UVA Corner, an area crowded with young people celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

“Far too often in this business, we are putting a BandAid on a sucking chest wound. We treat the symptoms but don’t often look for the cause,” UVA Police Chief Tim Longo said.

Already this year, there have been more than 50 incidents of shots fired in the City of Charlottesville and five murders. Chief Longo says those statistics are unheard of for the typically quiet and peaceful area.

As a result, he says more police will be present on the grounds.

“What’s the underlying motive behind these homicides and shootings? Is it drugs? Is it gang activity? Is it some other organized criminal enterprise? Well, I can tell you, at this state of the game, it’s all of the above,” Chief Longo said. “I really have no strong sense one way or another.”

President Ryan made a promise to parents to keep their children safe.

“For the parents...rest assured that we will work as hard as we need to and for as long as we can until we have reduced the gun violence that is plaguing this region right now,” Ryan said. “You have my word.”

The hour-long conversation didn’t point to one specific solution to resolve the gun violence problem.

Instead, UVA leaders talked about resources, including UVA Emergency Alerts, an active threat training video and the presence of ambassadors on grounds that can escort students home if they feel unsafe.